By Aminou Ouedraogo
Nine Ivorian women aged 46 to 91 years were convicted of female genital mutilation and complicity of female circumcision, at Katiola, a town 400 km from Abidjan. In February they had excised thirty girls in a ritual ceremony. At the end of this first trial for excision, they got a one-year sentence and a fine of 50,000 CFA francs (75 Euros). However, these women will not serve their prison sentences because of their age, according to the United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA).
This first conviction of circumcisers in Ivory Coast, hailed by the UN, is an important step in the fight against female circumcision. Patrick Yedess, in charge of State issues within the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) welcomed the progress.
Still according to UNFPA, arrests of women circumcisers had already taken place in Ivory Coast but had ended in amicable settlements following interventions by parents and local community.
A dozen African countries have now adopted specific anti-excision laws to confer to the fight against the phenomenon all its importance. According to a study by the NGO, despite the ban voted in 1998 in Côte d’Ivoire, excision now affects 42% of women in the country, with a rate of 70 to 80% within the Muslim community in the North and the animist in the West.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said that this traditional practice causes intense pain, bleeding, infertility or even death. A year-old girl died of her injuries related to excision at Dabakala in the northeast of Katiola at the end of 2011.
Joachim Theis, Regional Advisor for Child Protection at UNICEF advocates a social approach to eradicate this practice: “Female genital mutilations in Africa are social norms.” To fight this flail, he believes we should focus on fieldwork through education and local communities consciousness-raising. His point of view is shared by many NGOs fighting against female circumcision.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), in 2012, Africa has “92 million girls aged 10 and more who are sexually mutilated.”